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Two-thirds of Great Barrier Reef affected by bleaching

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In a time when climate change is a hot topic thanks to a certain TV-celebrity-turned-world-leader, it is worrying that aerial surveys have shown that unprecedented coral bleaching over consecutive years has significantly damaged some two-thirds of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Bleaching occurs when coral is stressed and loses its protective algae, known as zooxanthellae, and the devastation revealed by the scientific surveys shows it is affecting a massive 1,500km stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. The latest damage is concentrated in the middle section, whereas last year's bleaching event hit mainly the north.

Experts fear the close proximity of the two events will give damaged coral little chance to recover, and Professor Terry Hughes, from James Cook University, said that governments must urgently address climate change to prevent further bleaching, explaining that since 1998, there have been four of these events, but being so close together is unprecedented.

The Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies carried out the surveys, and said that the findings showed only the southern section was relatively unscathed. Even more concerning was the fact that the latest damage happened without the assistance of El Niño, a weather pattern previously associated with bleaching events.

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